A mistrial was declared Friday in the murder retrial of a white University of Cincinnati police officer after the jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked on charges in the fatal traffic stop shooting of an unarmed black motorist.
The Hamilton County jury had deliberated more than 30 hours over five days after getting the case Monday. The jurors had told Judge Leslie Ghiz earlier Friday that they were unable to reach a verdict in the trial of Officer Ray Tensing, but Ghiz sent them back to try again on the counts of murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Instead, they sent her another note some three hours later saying: “We are almost evenly split regarding our votes.” The note said they didn’t foresee reaching a unanimous verdict. Ghiz said as a result, she had to declare a mistrial; she thanked the jurors and dismissed them.
Tensing looked down, his hand on his face, as the judge announced the mistrial. He and his family left quickly without comment.
The first trial against the 27-year-old Tensing also ended in a mistrial after the jury deliberated 25 hours over four days in November without reaching a verdict.
The case is among several across the country in recent years that have raised attention to how police deal with blacks. It’s also among cases that show the difficulties prosecutors face in gaining convictions against police for on-duty shootings.
A jury last week acquitted a Minnesota officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop. And jurors on Wednesday acquitted a black police officer of first-degree reckless homicide in the death of a black Milwaukee man who threw away the gun he was carrying during a brief foot chase after a traffic stop.
Prosecutors will have to decide whether to try Tensing for a third time. Ghiz had rejected a prosecution request late in the trial to allow jurors to consider a lesser charge of reckless homicide, saying prosecutors could have done that after the first mistrial.
DuBose’s family said in a statement that they want a new trial and they urged that protests remain peaceful.
There were more than a dozen demonstrators outside the courthouse with rain coming down Friday afternoon, some chanting: “Black lives matter!”
Tensing shot 43-year-old Sam DuBose in the head after pulling him over for a missing front license plate on July 19, 2015.
As in his first trial, Tensing testified in his own defense and said he feared he could be dragged or run over as DuBose tried to drive away. He was in tears at some points.
“I meant to stop the threat,” he told jurors last week. “I didn’t shoot to kill him. I didn’t shoot to wound him. I shot to stop his actions.”
Prosecutors said repeatedly the evidence contradicted Tensing’s story. An expert hired by prosecutors said his frame-by-frame analysis of the former officer’s body camera video showed the officer was not being dragged by the car.
This jury had nine whites and three blacks. His first trial had 10 whites and two blacks.
The University of Cincinnati fired Tensing last year after his indictment. It restructured its public safety department and made other policing reforms. The university reached a $5.3 million settlement with DuBose’s family, including free undergraduate tuition for DuBose’s 13 children.
To convict Tensing of murder, jurors had to find he purposely killed DuBose. The charge carries a possible sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
The voluntary manslaughter charge means killing during sudden passion or a fit of rage. That carries a possible sentence of three to 11 years.